Kipnis, hometown Cubs near deal (source)

February 12th, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- By now, most Cubs fans are familiar with ' backstory. He grew up in a suburb north of Chicago. He attended Glenbrook North High School, eventually reached the Majors with the Indians and even homered against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the World Series.

Now, Kipnis is going to have the chance to revive his career with his childhood team.

Following nine seasons as a member of Cleveland's core, the veteran Kipnis is in the final stages of signing a Minor League contract with the Cubs, per a source. The contract will be worth $1 million plus incentives, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The deal, which is pending a physical and has not been confirmed by the Cubs, includes a non-roster invitation to attend Spring Training for the second baseman, who should report to camp by the end of the week.

Kipnis -- who was also in contact with the White Sox and A's this offseason -- will have an opportunity to compete for the Cubs' opening at second base, or at least to be a part of a timeshare. The right-handed David Bote is a contender for at-bats at second base, along with veteran Daniel Descalso and top prospect Nico Hoerner.

This spring, the Cubs will be evaluating whether Hoerner could benefit from continuing his development at Triple-A. He jumped to the Majors from Double-A last September, but he still only has 375 career plate appearances in two Minor League seasons due to injuries.

If Bote or Hoerner wins the second-base job, the Cubs might consider pairing one of them with a lefty-swinging option to help with certain matchups. Descalso (signed to a two-year contract last offseason) could fill that role, but the Cubs also have Carlos Asuaje in camp as a non-roster candidate. Kipnis would presumably contend for playing time in a similar capacity.

Last season, Kipnis hit .245/.304/.410 with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs for Cleveland, which opted not to pick up his $16.5 million option (in favor of a $2.5 million buyout) for 2020. Within that '19 showing, Kipnis posted a .446 slugging percentage against righties, compared to a .342 mark off lefties. Defensively, he had minus-seven Defensive Runs Saved and minus-six Outs Above Average at second.

Kipnis fractured his right hamate bone on Sept. 15 last season, ending his season and time with the Tribe. The surgery to correct the issue came with a recovery period of four-to-six weeks. For comparison, Cubs catcher Victor Caratini sustained a similar injury in April of last season and was sidelined from April 12-May 15.

Kipnis, who will turn 33 years old on April 3, grew into a key part of the Tribe's core and made two All-Star teams during his time in Cleveland. When the Indians won the 2016 pennant and were tasked with facing Chicago, Kipnis said, "The Cubs are part of who I am."

Worth noting

• A year ago, the Cubs used the initial PECOTA projections by Baseball Prospectus as actual bulletin-board material, posting the 80-82 figure on a whiteboard in the clubhouse. Following an 84-win showing in '19, the newest PECOTA projections for '20 have the club with 84.5 wins.

"More than we won last year," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "Our base performance, our underlying stats, equated with a 90-win team last year. We happened to win 84. So, it's probably not that unusual that they'd predict us to win more than 84. Hopefully, we'll prove them wrong and win a lot more than 85."

Last season, the Cubs' Pythagorean record (based on run differential) was 90-72.

• Manager David Ross will spend much of this spring pondering who to put in the lineup's leadoff spot. On Tuesday, Ross said he has some ideas, but nothing he would want to say publicly for the time being.

"There's a handful of guys you guys can say, or can speculate," Ross said. "I think Rizz [Anthony Rizzo] is definitely a viable option if I want to go with a professional at-bat to lead it off. There's a group of guys."

• Marquee Sports Network announced on Tuesday that former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace and Big Ten Network reporter/host Elise Menaker have been added as on-air personalities. Grace will contribute to pregame, postgame and in-game coverage, while Menaker will create feature stories, other content and serve as a reporter/host. Marquee is set to launch on Feb. 22.